St. Clair Shores is seeking compensation from Carol Baur’s estate for the $13,600 cost of the demolition of her St. Margaret Street home.

St. Clair Shores is seeking compensation from Carol Baur’s estate for the $13,600 cost of the demolition of her St. Margaret Street home.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske

Woman fights to have demolition charges removed from mother’s estate in St. Clair Shores

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published June 30, 2021

 Baur’s home was damaged beyond repair after the man living with her kept police at bay for more than 24 hours in July 2019. Baur was killed over the course of that time.

Baur’s home was damaged beyond repair after the man living with her kept police at bay for more than 24 hours in July 2019. Baur was killed over the course of that time.

File photo by Kristyne E. Demske


ST. CLAIR SHORES — Two years after a barricaded gunman locked down the 31000 block of St. Margaret Street, the family of the woman who was living with him — and ultimately died at his hands — is still seeking peace and justice from the city.

Emily Shankie is the daughter of Carol Baur, who owned the home on St. Margaret Street where she lived with Tom Ihlendfeldt. Beginning after 10 p.m. July 4, 2019, Ihlendfeldt kept police at bay for more than 24 hours after shooting at his neighbor’s home and injuring two people there, shooting and killing Baur after she tried to dissuade him from attacking the neighbors and, ultimately, taking his own life.

St. Clair Shores Police, the St. Clair Shores Emergency Response Team and other emergency personnel worked for hours trying to get into the house and persuade Ihlendfeldt to surrender, using battering rams, water and robots, and ultimately damaging the house beyond repair.

The city of St. Clair Shores filed a nuisance and abatement lawsuit against the estate in September 2019, and a default judgement entered in the case in April 2020 allowed the city to demolish the home and collect legal fees. The home was demolished less than a month later. While the attorney’s fees have been waived as of March 2021, the city is still seeking compensation from Baur’s estate for the $13,600 cost of the demolition.

“After sitting on it and absorbing what was happening, I couldn’t really wrap my head around understanding why a victim of abuse, domestic homicide abuse, would be responsible for somebody else’s damage, let alone her abuser’s damage,” Shankie said. “We support the Police Department, and we support what they had to do to protect the community and themselves ... but they also did that to the house.

“My mother shouldn’t be responsible for that. She was laying in the kitchen, deceased, as of around 9 p.m. that night.”

Lakeshore Legal Aid and Turning Point support Shankie’s goal of trying to have the costs of the demolition dropped.

Emily Calabrese, chief advocacy officer for Lakeshore Legal Aid, said that they understand that the costs are a legally allowable, recoverable expense, but that by continuing to pursue the charges, the city is in effect blaming the victim. By requiring the estate to pay for the demolition, she said, the message is that Baur is responsible for her own death, and the damage to her home, because she stayed with her abuser.

“There needs to be a lot of education on domestic violence,” Shankie said. “It’s not always written on the wall. You can sense it, you can feel it, but a victim might not talk about it or (the victim may) practice so much that you actually believe it’s not happening.”

She said Ihlendfeldt lived with her mother, off and on, for more than a decade and, during that time, Shankie experienced verbal abuse from him, as well.

“Obviously, we saw the end result. She was terrified,” Shankie said of Baur. “She finally made her choice in the end, resolved to leave and, obviously, she’s not here any longer. It’s not just getting in your car and driving away. It’s not that simple. You can’t just leave and be done with it.”

Calabrese said the belief that victims can just pick up and leave, and that there are enough resources to support them in that decision, is a fallacy.

“Reasons for staying can include the abuser’s use of power and control, a lack of resources, or a genuine fear the abuser will escalate the violence and even kill the survivor of abuse and/or their family,” Calabrese said in a statement. “For Ms. Baur, this fear became a reality. Dismissing, condemning or discrediting survivors and victims leads to severe and often deadly consequences.”

Since July 4, 2019, Shankie said she and her brother have been able to piece together what happened to their mother. The neighbor across the street, Channita Jackson, called police to the 31000 block of St. Margaret Street around 10 p.m. July 4 after Ihlendfeldt harassed children at her home for the holiday, and then threatened her and her house with a gun. Shankie said Baur coaxed Ihlendfeldt inside, but he then went back outside.

“What I’ve come together in my mind (is), she grabbed her purse, she grabbed her belongings and was headed to the door, and he decided to turn around and go back inside and take my mother’s life, and then turn around and come back outside and attack the neighbors,” she said.

Ihlendfeldt ultimately shot Jackson’s house, as well as a 62-year-old woman and a 10-year-old girl. Shankie said he called her at 10:52 that night to tell her he had shot Baur. Shankie believes he did so because Baur was trying to leave.

“We put that together because when the police found her, her purse was next to her, her keys were next to her and her phone was next to her,” she said.

Shankie, Calabrese, representatives from Turning Point and other supporters came to the June 21 St. Clair Shores City Council meeting asking for the city to waive the costs of the demolition.

“The only way we can now prevent Carol from having to pay that expense is if this council will waive those fees and not charge the estate,” Calabrese said June 21.

Shankie said that, in order for her and her brother to try and recover some of their mother’s soaked belongings from the home, they first had to pay a company to brace the front of the home so it wouldn’t collapse on them. They also rented a collection bag from the trash company because they wanted to try and clear debris from the front of the home left from the standoff so neighbors wouldn’t have to continue to stare at the mess.

“These are some of the incurred costs of losing a parent to” a barricaded gunman, she said. “It is not right. This is not my mom’s fault.

“Just because something is legal and standard practice does not mean it is the path that needs to be taken in a not-typical situation.”

Shankie said Ihlendfeldt did not have an estate, so even though he should have been first in line to be held responsible, “there is nothing there.”

Carmen Wargel, chief strategy officer at Turning Point, said no survivor or victim of domestic violence should be held “morally, legally or financially responsible for the crimes done to them.”

St. Clair Shores is a community that takes care of its neighbors, she said.

“This is not the kind of community where that harm goes ignored or blamed or unnoticed,” she said.

City Attorney Robert Ihrie said that he understands and respects the fact that what happened July 4, 2019, on St. Margaret Street was a tragic situation.

In a city of nearly 60,000 people, however, he explained that there have been thousands of situations over the years when pieces of private property have become blighted and unhealthy for the neighborhood.

“The vast majority of the time, they’re very, very sad situations, most often involving issues and people who are suffering from mental health issues, age issues, emotional issues, injuries, deaths, inabilities, disabilities. They are never good. They are never happy situations,” he said. “What happens, not only in St. Clair Shores, but in virtually every city, township and village in the state of Michigan, (is) the cities very often will step in, and many times people don’t have the money to solve the problem.”

What the city did in this and many other situations, he said, is essentially front the money to resolve the health issue — in this case, through demolishing the home and placing a lien on the property to recoup the costs.

It is not an easy decision for City Council to step in with taxpayer money to resolve the situation, he said.

“The other side of the coin that City Council has to look at to make a decision on, (is) if we do it in this situation, what about the next one, the next difficult one or the last difficult one,” he said. “This is not an easy situation for a council to determine what to do with taxpayer money.”

Mayor Kip Walby said he would discuss the issue with City Council. No decision was made at the June 21 meeting.

Shankie said she just wants everyone to know what a good person her mother was, and that it’s not right to blame the victim of abuse.

“This is just going to push victims away from coming out and getting help,” she said.

She said, eventually, she would like to see city policy changed in situations like this one.

“My mother, she was amazing. She was a contributing member to this community for nearly 33 years,” Shankie told City Council. “By placing blame on the victim, the council members are sending the wrong message.”